Tag Archives: #mentalhealth

Why It’s Hard To Be Happy For Your Pregnancy

img_6312I was sitting in my office, seeing clients, when I made the mistake of checking Facebook in between my 4:45 and 5:30.  I felt like a brick slammed into my gut as I saw yet another jubilant pregnancy announcement.  The woman in question looked joyous and glowing, full of life literally and metaphorically.   The post, albeit wonderful, reminded me of my inability to do the same thing.  I plugged in my phone, plastered a smile on my face, and opened the door to usher in another client.

*****

I am not supposed to talk about this.  I am supposed to be kind and inspiring and supportive of my fellow females.  “There’s a special place in hell for females who put down other females,” coarsely says the recent meme.  But what if talking about my pain doesn’t take away from my happiness for my pregnant sisters?  What if they exist at the same time?  What if the expectations we impose upon fellow females are inhuman?  Because God knows, I’m as human as they get.

My baby was supposed to be born in 5 days.  She was supposed to be a distraction from the current grotesque spectacle of an election.  “The baby will “make November great again,” I had quipped to my husband.  She would make November great again, because my Dad had passed away the same month and so had John’s Nana the past two years in a row.  But then, she decided not to come, and November remained the way it was, cold and foreboding of more cold.  And I watched other friends post sonogram pictures of their healthy, thriving babies.

My mind has brought me several ways to invalidate my feelings about my miscarriage.  One, is that I have a healthy child.  A child that is nothing but full of life.  So why should I be sad about something that wasn’t a child yet?  That was nothing but a clump of cells?  I have one.  Also, nags the voice, you know people that can’t even have one child.  You should be grateful.  It doesn’t help that this voice is backed up daily by well-meaning friends and family members.  But this voice and these well-meaning people make no sense, because we can’t put qualifiers on what can be grieved and what can’t.  Imagine if we had a cutoff for grief and anything that was above that line of awfulness couldn’t be grieved.  Would only starving children be afforded the right to grieve?  But a suburban mom couldn’t?  Where’s the sense in that?

The thing is, it’s as if life said, Hey.  Here is your chance to take care of another human soul.  Here is a chance at joy for your family.  Start to change your plans and take down the crib from the attic.  Stop eating feta and coffee and start to prepare your older child for a sibling.  But wait – 

Just kidding, it says cruelly.  Back up your car, you don’t get to go down that path anymore.  Unbecome a pregnant woman, physically and mentally.  Unprepare your child for a sibling.  The guest room will just be a guest room and the good news is, you can have as much coffee as you want.

*****

I was in Market Basket, shopping, and there she was.  Demeter herself.  A pregnant woman dressed in a beautiful flowered sundress.  She was stunning – she had that knowing look in her eye, and I swear she could smell my jealousy.  And here I was – half Persephone, half Demeter, strung out by no sleep, dressed in running clothes, hair a mess.  I felt less than, less of a woman, even though my rational mind knew I wasn’t.  My body remembered.  My body remembered.

I am well aware that the picture of that pregnant woman on Facebook may very well be the same face of a woman who, like me, cried on the cold slab of the doctor’s table one heartbroken day.  That she may have gone through numerous fertilization treatments.  That she may have been told as a child she never could have children.

But none of that stuff can take away from my imperfect humanity, the stuff that makes you squirm.  My humanity that feels less than and raw and yes, sometimes judges, even if she tries really hard not to.

And please don’t ask me to take it away.  Please don’t expect me to be inhuman.  Women are so much more than one-sided smiley-faced there-for-your-comfort holograms.  We are full people, full of the stuff you like and the stuff you may not want to hear.

My Daughter Called Someone Fat

It was a beautiful autumn Friday in New England.  My daughter had just completed two successful, confidence-inspiring hours of gymnastics at the Little Gym.  (In a blue shiny leotard we had just purchased, nonetheless!)  We walked back to the car, hand-in-hand; I was proud of this time.  She was a baby who had low muscle tone, and I had put her in gymnastics purposefully.  Now, she was doing flips over the bars.

As I unlocked the car, Fiona started to gaze off into the distance.  Stare, in fact.  I followed her gaze to her classmate and parents, who were walking together.

A slow smirk spread over her face, as her gaze focused on the obese father.

“Mama, he’s fat.” She continued smirking, and an implied sense of power washed over her as she realized she was NOT and he WAS.

Not my daughter.

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For those of you who don’t know, I was a FAT kid.   I was mocked for it by classmates, I was deemed “disgusting”, I was even sexually assaulted by a classmate in music class “because I was fat.”  (Because I deserved it, because I was fat.)

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There are people who will view this who will argue with me and say that there’s no negative connotation with being fat.  They will tell me that I’m too sensitive and that I put too many expectations on my daughter and I say to them, I AM DONE WITH YOU.

I LIVED it and I continue to live it every time I lose 5 pounds and I am praised for it.  I continue to live it every time I gain weight and I notice people give me less compliments about my appearance.  You are bullshitting yourself if you think there is no negative connotation with being fat.  There is less today, but it still exists.

When Fiona uttered this sentence, I panicked.  Where did she pick this up?  I, for one, don’t use the word fat.  I use the word heavy and overweight, but not fat, because I know what it carries with it. We also refer to foods as being healthy, or having “vitamins to make you run fast”.  Had she picked it up from her friends?  Seen it on an ad?  I was a little stunned, and a little disgusted, even know the intellectual side of me knew she was four years old.  She reminded me of that blonde in my class on the playground who always made fun of my awkward body during Project Adventure.

“Fiona, we do not say that.  That is not nice.  Get in the car.”

I buckled her up, prayed, and said to myself – Do not be hard on her.  Do not project your experience on her and shame her.  Just be honest, factual, and tell her your experience.

“Fiona, I have to tell you a story.”

“What?”

“A long time ago, Mama was overweight when she was a kid.  A lot of people made fun of Mama and called her fat and it made Mama feel really, really bad.  So I know how it feels, and it doesn’t feel good.  That’s why we don’t call people fat.”

I don’t know if was blood memory, or a sudden lightbulb that went off in her head, but Fiona’s face turned ashen.  Her face crumpled, and she GOT IT.  Like, mourned for her mother got it.  Like, cried all the way home got it.  I immediately felt horrid, even know I know I maintained an even tone (isn’t this motherhood thing fucked?)

On the way home, she turned her face into the seat, ashamed.  I tried to reiterate my unconditional love for her. “Baby, Mama doesn’t think any differently of you – Mama would love you even if you punched somebody!  It’s just important we’re kind to people.”  It didn’t seem to help.  She whimpered and finally started to come around after I distracted her with a joke.

*****

Parenthood is brutal.  It’s even more brutal with a trauma history you have to dissect and not project onto your kids whilst maintaining some sort of a lesson for them when they’re unkind.  Childhood is brutal too – imagine not knowing you were being unkind, and then being told you were being unkind in a way that hurt your parent when they were kids?  Imagine being so innocent and then not, knowing your Mama was hurt for the way she looked?  And would that happen to you?

Yesterday, someone on my husband’s facebook feed disagreed with the meme that Donald Trump’s words about sexual assault leading to the actual crime did not matter, and that words are very different from actions.  I sit here enraged, thinking about that, because I know the effect of words.  Words that lead to sexual assault.  “FAT” leading to “less than” leading to “it’s ok to touch her in a sexual way because she’s less than”.

Not my daughter.